Video Verdict: ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” “Shame”

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) pushes himself to the limit in “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.”

A fast-paced action film starring Tom Cruise anchors this week’s home video releases.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

3 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence
Paramount
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

Each of Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible” films has had a different director, and the latest to take the helm is Brad Bird, a man who made his name with the animated hits “The Iron Giant,” “Ratatouille” and “The Incredibles.” If Bird had difficulty transitioning from cartoons to the real world, it isn’t apparent on screen. “Ghost Protocol” is a fast-paced, exciting thriller that’s as entertaining as any of its predecessors.

The movie starts with Impossible Missions Force (IMF) agents Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) breaking team leader Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) out of a Russian prison. As soon as Hunt is extracted, he leads Carter and Dunn on a dangerous mission to infiltrate the Moscow Kremlin. During the operation, a third party sets off an explosive, making the Russians believe the IMF attacked them. This forces the U.S. government to disavow the organization, and Hunt and his team must go underground.

Like all previous “Mission: Impossible” films, “Ghost Protocol” relies on a formula that mixes semi-realistic plotting with stunts and gadgets that are out of this world. The action sequences are so over the top, in fact, that realists may be put off by their implausibility. But that’s part of the fun.

Bird does a fine job balancing the stunts with just enough exposition to make the story flow smoothly, and the cast is terrific. Even though Cruise is nearly 50 years old, he seems perfectly at home scaling buildings and running from explosions, and Patton and Pegg provide nice contrast to his audacity. Bird gained additional star power by casting Jeremy Renner (“The Town,” “The Hurt Locker”) as an intelligence analyst who helps Hunt and company. He is a welcome addition.

As ludicrous as the “Ghost Protocol” action scenes are, it’s easy to get sucked in by the sheer spectacle and the charming players. Really, there’s no reason to resist. These movies are meant to deliver big, bold fun, and “Ghost Protocol” does just that.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include making-of features and deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by Bird.

Shame

3 stars
Rated NC-17 for some explicit sexual content
20th Century Fox
Available on: Blu-ray/DVD combo pack

Michael Fassbender had an incredible 2011, starring in four major theatrical releases including “Jane Eyre,” “X-Men: First Class” and “A Dangerous Method.” Although “X-Men” was his most popular movie, his most prestigious was “Shame,” a gritty, sexually charged drama.

Fassbender’s work in the film earned him a Golden Globe nomination for best performance by an actor in a drama, as well as critical attention in the days leading up to the Oscar nominations. Ultimately, he was passed over for the Oscars, but that doesn’t diminish the quality of his performance. The lack of Oscar attention also takes nothing from the outstanding supporting work of his co-star Carey Mulligan.

Fassbender and Mulligan play Brandon and Sissy Sullivan, siblings whose troubled childhoods follow them into adulthood. Brandon is a sex addict who spends his non-working hours engaging in empty physical relationships, and Sissy is messed up in more ways than one. The film, co-written and directed by Steve McQueen (“Hunger”), follows both characters through a period of several days, painting a bleak picture of their relationships with one another and the outside world.

Because “Shame” is so frank and sexually graphic, it can be difficult to watch. That is not, however, criticism. The cinema has a place for painfully honest depictions of addiction and the scars of childhood abuse. “Shame” occupies that space nicely.

McQueen allows his actors time to flesh out their characters, and the resulting performances are astounding. What you won’t find in “Shame” is sentimentality or an overriding message of redemption. The film is as bleak as they come, and even the final sequence leaves doubts about the future Brandon and Sissy are headed toward.

Home video extras include shorts on Fassbender and McQueen, plus several other making-of features.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

IMAX – “Born to be Wild”: Documentary film focused on humans who work to rehabilitate orphaned elephants and orangutans and return them to the wild. As the title notes, the movie was originally an IMAX release. The Morgan Freeman-narrated feature is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D.

“Frozen Planet” – The Complete Series: The production team that created “Planet Earth” delivers a nature series focused on life and the environment in the Arctic and Antarctic. Narrated by David Attenborough.

“Treme” – The Complete Second Season: This HBO drama about New Orleans citizens rebuilding their lives in the wake of Hurricane Katrina has been renewed for a third season, and the eleven episodes in this set can bring you up to speed. Khandi Alexander, Lucia Micarelli, Melissa Leo, Steve Zahn, Clark Peters and Wendell Pierce star.

“Eight is Enough” – The Complete First Season: Folks who grew up in the 1970s and ’80s surely remember this dramedy about Sacramento newspaperman Tom Bradford (Dick Van Patten) and his adventures in raising eight children.

“Alambrista!”: Criterion Collection release of director Robert M. Young’s 1977 drama about a Mexican man (Domingo Ambriz) who illegally crosses into the U.S. to find work and support his family. The movie won the Golden Camera award at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival.

“Ice Road Truckers” – Season Five: Sixteen episodes of the History Channel reality show about truckers who brave extreme weather to haul supplies and equipment across frozen bodies of water and other dangerous terrain.

“Top Shot – The Gauntlet – The Complete Season Three”: History Channel reality show that asks competitors to demonstrate marksmanship skills using varied weapons. This set includes all 12 season three episodes on four discs.

“Buck Privates”: Universal Studios is re-releasing this 1941 Abbott and Costello film as part of its 100th Anniversary Collector’s Series. In the movie, the comedy duo portray conmen who enlist in the Army to avoid being arrested. Alas, the police officer who was after them, becomes their drill sergeant.

“Ben 10 – Ultimate Alien – The Ultimate Ending”: Ten episodes of the animated series about a teenager who battles evil forces by transforming himself into a variety of alien shapes.

Roger Corman’s Cult Classics – The Nurses Collection: Shout Factory continues to roll out a variety of movies touched by writer-director-producer Roger Corman. This latest set includes four of Corman’s naughty nurse films. Included are: “Candy Stripe Nurses,” “Night Call Nurses,” “Private Duty Nurses” and “The Young Nurses.”

Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at forrest@forresthartman.com.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Video Verdict: ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” “Shame”

  1. Jay Lo

    Good article on Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol. I think this is the best to date in the series. I watched this over the weekend and I must have watched it a few times. I rely on my Blockbuster@Home service to get the most movies a month before the competition. I can view thousands of movies and TV shows, and I can get games too. I can play games as long as I like, without due dates or late fees. I’m thrilled that my coworker from Dish mentioned this service.

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  2. I just saw “Shame” last night on HBO. I realize I am behind the curve here, since it was released in 2011 and your video review appeared a year ago. But after watching I had to see if you reviewed this. “Shame” is my kind of film — dark, hopeless, raw, uncomfortable, riveting. The scene where the protagonist hits on the other guy’s girlfriend in a bar is classic. I’m cool with an ending that isn’t happy, but this one left a little to be desired. I’ll go 3.5 stars.

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  3. I figured you would like it Josh. It can be tough to watch, but it’s a well-made film.

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  4. Cool. Well next time you see a movie that is of the indie-dark variety, throw a recommendation my way. it had been quite a while since I saw one that goes to those uncomfortable places. Some criticized it as gratuitous, but I thought it was more focused than something like “Little Children,” which seemed determined to be weird just to be weird.

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